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Three pieces of landscaping in one image: shale rocks, river rocks, and grass

Common Uses Of River Rocks For Your Yard’s Landscaping

When it comes to your yard, hardscaping is a must for a full, cohesive vision. For most, the first thing that springs to mind is structures like pergolas, firepits, and other construction-based elements. However, one of the most obvious hardscaping elements is one that most people don’t even consider: rock.

Landscape rocks are more than just the annoying (or dangerous) random pebble that can find its way onto your lawn; it can be a pathway, a statement piece, or even aesthetically pleasing retaining walls that are mindfully included in your landscape design. But because rock isn’t typically considered when initially planning your home improvement, you may find your head spinning when your landscape designer asks if you’d prefer pea gravel or lava rocks in your pathway. 

If you want to go into your next consultation with a set idea of what types of landscaping rocks to use, here’s what we suggest: river rock. This versatile and aesthetically pleasing kind of rock is just the thing to add a bit more character to your yard.

What Is River Rock?

Unlike lava rock or sandstone, which are types of rock, “river rock” is so named because of where it’s found: river beds. These rocks are smooth and sturdy as a general rule, and they’re often made up of various kinds of rocks, which can add some much-needed diversity to the color and shape compared to what you might find with other kinds of rock. 

What Kinds Of River Rock Are There?

Because river rock is just rocks found in river beds, there’s a wide range of types of rock to choose from, including:

  • Gravel
  • Pebbles
  • Paving stones
  • Flagstones
  • Boulders

They also come in a variety of colors and patterns. The one thing that’s consistent with all river rock, though, is that they are smooth and rounded from years of water running over them, leading to a sleek and polished look that can be a real showstopper in any yard.

Is River Rock Expensive?

River rock is actually one of the most budget-friendly options for adding stone to your landscaping. Often, it will just cost a few dollars per pound, with the cost coming out to about $60 - $170 per ton. Considering the variety of colors, shapes, and sizes that river rock comes in, that’s a steal–and it’s a great way to add some class to your yard without worrying about breaking the bank.

How Can You Use River Rock In Your Landscaping?

The list of ways you can use river rock in your garden is endless. Here are a few common uses for river rock, as well as a few ways you can really set your yard apart by using this underrated element:

Ground Cover

If you live in an arid climate and want to conserve water, you can substitute river rock for a traditional lawn. Because river rock is varied and often comes in a variety of colors, including blue, green, brown, white, and even black, it can offer a beautiful, diverse form of ground cover that doesn’t waste water.


Rather than concrete, which is prone to cracking after too much rain, consider using river rock gravel in your driveway. It’s a low-maintenance way to fill the area that will easily allow water to run off into the nearby drain in rainy weather, and it doesn’t have the same potential to freeze in the winter like asphalt.

Garden Beds

While your flower beds will obviously need soil to grow, adding some river rock can help with water conservation. These rocks are designed to hold up against regular waterings without crumbling or shrinking, and they’ll work as an excellent form of water retention to ensure your plants get the water they need without the risk of overwatering. You can also line your garden with bigger rocks for an elegant yet natural way to keep it in line.


When you create pathways through your yard, there’s always the question of what to use to pave it. While concrete and pavers have their merits, river rock has a variety that other methods of paving can’t match. You can choose between natural flagstones to fully cover high traffic areas, or pebble or gravel filled pathways for some textural fun. If you’re feeling particularly whimsical, stepping stones add an air of enchantment to your yard, and with river rock, you can have nearly the full experience of hopping through a river stream.

Water Features

River rock is, as the name suggests, found in rivers. That means it’s the perfect rock to stand up to water. Use river rock to line your pond, fountain, or even your pool for an organic, natural look that you can be sure will last for ages.


Filling your firepit with rock can lead to an aesthetically pleasing bit of drama. Black polished river rock in particular can make an excellent base for your firepit, and since rock isn’t flammable, it’s a safe addition to any fire-based display.

Statement Pieces

Every landscape should have an element that draws the eye the moment you walk in, whether that’s a firepit, a pond, or a gazebo. Change things up and go for a modern, natural display with a good-sized boulder to serve as the centerpiece of your yard. Or, if you want something a little less avant-garde, rock gardens can be a peaceful yet intriguing display that elevates your yard to something very zen-oriented–without the need to water, weed, or prune, which makes it much lower maintenance than a traditional garden.


Rather than relying on plain (or even ugly) drainage pipes, you can create a faux dry riverbed in your yard to act as a drainage system for your yard. Simply install it along a slope where water naturally gathers, line it with river rock in various sizes, and add some plants to help soak up some of the run-off. Not only is this a practical way to ensure your yard doesn’t end up soggy, but it’s a beautiful piece to add in any yard–you can even set up a chair and listen to the soothing sound of running water after a particularly rainy day.

Let’s Get Ready To (River) Rock!

Now that you’ve seen all of our river rock landscaping ideas, it’s probably hard to choose which one to add to your yard! Take a moment to go out to your yard and visualize each of these options. If one really stands out as being perfect for your yard, then here’s your sign to go for it!

Still not sure? Then it’s time to call in a landscape designer! They know all the ins and outs of rock-based features, and they’ll be able to help you visualize the perfect addition to your outdoor space. By calling up a landscaping company like Granite, you can get a full idea of what your yard could look like with river rock landscape elements–along with a quote of how much it’ll be.

Rocks are the unsung heroes of landscaping design, and river rocks are perhaps one of the most overlooked yet beautiful additions you can include in your landscaping. Now that you know about this inexpensive yet varied and versatile rock, you can start incorporating it into your garden space today.

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